Sunday, October 04, 2009

Shaggy Inkcaps

click photo to enlarge
I've collected and eaten a considerable number of wild mushrooms in my time, though more in the past than in recent years. Field Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) have been my usual quarry, as these are the most widespread, easily identified, edible species in the UK, and the type that is most often eaten. I remember looking for them in the "fog" with my father - that is the the new growth of grass after a meadow has been cut, rather than the misty, murky variety - and coming away with bags full. It's my impression that there are fewer Field Mushrooms than formerly, perhaps because of the decline in meadows, or maybe as a consequence of the dressings that farmers put on fields these days.

I've also tried the Common Morel (Morchella esculenta) and had a taste of Common Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum), though I wasn't keen to repeat either experience. It's not that the taste was unpleasant, it was more my having to take on trust what I was told about them being safe. The poisonous mushrooms and toadstools that are quite commonly found, and often difficult to distinguish from similar edible varieties, make it best to leave the eating of more exotic species to those who know what they are doing.

The while ago I came across these Shaggy Inkcap Mushrooms (Coprinus comatus) in a friend's garden. This is an edible species too. But, looking at the unwholesome appearance of these two examples, and particularly the black drips sliding off the larger one, I can't say I'd be thrilled to find them on my dinner plate. In fact, these are Inkcaps that are past the point when they are suitable for eating - the short, dumpy ones in the background are about right - but the pictured examples are suitable for making ink! The English name of this species derives from its former use as a source of black liquid for ink-making. And that's not a fact that encourages me to eat them either!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On